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Missing teen rescued after using viral TikTok hand gestures to signal she’s in danger

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Nov 09, 2021 2:51 pm

A 16-year-old female was saved from potential danger after she did the “Signal for Help,” a single-handed gesture used to alert others if they feel threatened and need help. 

The teen had been reported missing for days by her parents in Asheville, North Carolina. 

According to the Laurel County Sheriff’s office in Kentucky, a complainant called 911 after noticing the teen, who was in a vehicle with a man traversing Interstate 75, making hand gestures.

The caller, who was driving behind the vehicle where the teen was in at the time, recognized the hand gestures that became viral on TikTok to represent victims of domestic violence needing help. The caller also noticed that the teen appeared to be in distress. 

The alert led to the arrest of 61-year-old James Herbert Brick for “unlawful imprisonment” after he was caught with the missing teen in the back seat of his car. 

Investigators also found Brick in possession of photos of a teenager engaged in sexual acts in his mobile phone.

The teen told investigators that she traveled with Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, where the suspect had relatives.

According to the sheriff’s statement, Brick and the teen left Ohio when the suspect’s relatives realized that his companion was underage and reported missing. This was when the teen started attempting to get motorists’ attention for help.

“Signal for help,” a life-saver

The life-saving hand gesture that the teen made called “Signal for Help” was popularized on TikTok by the Canadian Women’s Foundation during the early days of the pandemic in 2020. The information was further propagated by TIkTok content creators who also posted their versions of the video.

The foundation introduced the hand signal to help provide a solution to the issue of a rise in domestic violence cases during the pandemic. 

The “Signal for Help” is a one-handed sign that someone can use on a video call to alert a person that he or she is in need of help.

The signal is made by holding your hand with your thumb tucked into your palm. Then fold your fingers down, which, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, symbolically traps your thumb in your fingers.

The signal was intentionally designed to be a single, continuous hand movement that could be made easily visible. To learn the gesture, watch the video below:

(If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, call the PNP hotline 177, Aleng Pulis hotline at 0919-777-7377 or PNP Women and Children Protection Center anti-violence against women and children office at 8532-6690. You may also send an e-mail to the following: [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected].)